23 September 2009

Devoid of Pointlessness

"I want to raise a requisition to hire a software developer " I told the suspicous but not unhelpful Singaporean who was manning the Corporate Helpline 1

frustration by e-magic

I glanced at my watch, it was 11:35pm in Singapore. I wondered how she had ended up doing that lonely job in the middle of the night and whether all her friends from Uni were at this moment in a crowded bar at the harbour enjoyng chilli crab and beers. I resisted the impulse to ask her what time she got off that evening..

"Do you have authority to hire software developers", she asked.
This was a trick question, of course, but I wasn't born yesterday.
"No, I don't have the authority", I replied, evenly, "I'm only a level 7B. No, what I want to do is raise a request to hire a software developer; which will route to my Global Department Head to authorise"

(fifteen all)

"But has your Global Department Head", she countered, "given you prior authorisation to make this request?"


I paused and considered this carefully for a moment.

"I'm going", I said slowly, "I'm going to say: 'yes' " (I'm good)

We stared the whites of each others eyes 2  for a moment or two, sizing each-other up..... and she blinked:

"Very well, then: in order to raise a requisition you have to use the I-Buy system"
"I thought that might be the case, but I am not an authorised user of I-Buy"


On my screen I watched the Project Phoenix count-down clock flip over: 10,944 hours until we go live. I had wasted the whole of hour 10,945 on this.

Over the phone I heard a bleep and  I wondered if my young interlocutor was allowed a cell-phone in the call centre - were her mates at the bar at this very second tweeting her photos of the crab she was missing? Or was there a boyfriend texting patiently at home, and english lessons, and proud parents and a dream to one day move to Manhattan?  Did she yearn, I wondered, did she yearn, in that lonely call centre late at night for a job that made a difference? a job devoid of pointlessness, a job that contributed something measurable to the company for which she worked?

"Can you give me.."
"I'm not authorised to give you I-Buy authorisation.  You need to complete a request for I-Buy, which will be routed to your manager to approve"

"So .. I make a request... for the authority... to make a request?"

But I knew not to push it any further; and I sighed, and clicked on the link she had already emailed me.

1 Press 1 for Technical Support, Press 2 for Building Maintenance Press 3 for Human Resources...  3 .....  You have pressed 3, Human Resources.  Please don't press 3 unless your need is urgent.

2 Yes, that's right -  we were on the phone. It's a metaphor.

20 September 2009

Heffalump's Footsteps

Walking to work last week in the low, dazzling September exalting in the cool, milky autumn air; I was juggling my mp3 player, my newspaper, my blackberry, my phone and my old-man glasses when the phone rang.

Parallel Worlds by alicepopkorn ( in and out )

Glancing at the display I was nonplussed to see who was calling for there on the screen was flashing  Alibert Botogol [Work]

Now, I've seen an episode or two of Dr Who in my time, so I knew pretty much what to expect: most likely my alter ego from a parallel universe was taking advantage of a tiny wormhole in the space-time continuum to place a call to summon my assistance with a problem that was threatening the security of the entire multiverse.

Either that or someone was burgling my office, had found my address book, and was having a laugh at my expense.

Not sure which prospect was the more frightening and full of curiosity but not without hesitation, and somewhat gingerly, I took the call.

"Hello, Alibert Botogol speaking?", I said just as the person at the other end said exactly the same thing. "Hello? Hello?" we both continued,  talking over each other, until, spooked, I fell silent. So did the other guy.... I waited, coolly....

...until a tiny squeal from my pocket distracted me and I fished out of my jacket... my blackberry. I must have forgotten to lock the keys when I stuffed it away for it seemed to be making a phone call.....

15 September 2009

12 of 12

Ok, so it's one of those meme things. The idea is: on the 12th of the month you take 12 photographs and... well... that's it, really.

I actually got the idea from the this blog's cyber-namesake, (or, as we say in the trade, HT: verseau).

Now, the last time I tried something like this it wasn't at all popular, so Anonymous? (you know who you are) ... you may wish to look away now.

The rest of you - well, here's what I did in 12 Sept.

14 September 2009

Madison Violet

Madison Violet enjoying themselves
There's nothing like a late Sunday evening for a crush in the  overheated room over the Cabbage Patch that plays host to the Twickenham Folk Club (now cunningly rebranded as TwickFolk@CabbagePatch)

We were there, Mrs Botogol and I, to hear an obscure Canadian country roots/folk duo called Madison Violet (as featured by whispering Bob Harris on Radio 2)

Doors were at 8pm so, obsessively punctual, I hurried us there for 7:59. But there were two support acts. Of course there were; it was very hot and the wine was warm. Mrs Botogol was not amused.

But it was worth it!  If we had not been entirely warmed up by the slightly sulky1 Good Intentions who preceded them ("We've come from Shoreditch. Just now that is. Actually, we're from Liverpool. Well Gaby's not") it wasn't our fault, but when these two upbeat, wise-cracking  women took the stage, positively revelling in each others' company, it was impossible not to smile.

In a packed set they played almost all of their new album - No Fool For Trying - the upbeat title track contrasting with the bitter and angry tones of Woodshop and Black and White, the yearning of Ransom and charming nostalgia of Small Of My Heart

There were a couple of Flight of the Concords moments as very dedicated tour-following fans fresh from New Brunswick and Switzerland made themselves known, Lisa and Brenley handling with aplomb, and the crowd sang cooperatively when called upon.

Here are MadViolet singing the most moving song of the evening -  Woodshop - Brenley MacEachern momentarily choking up in her introduction as she recalled the death of her brother, and the family tragedy about which the song is written.

The set finished with singular - and sinister - cover of Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson, the  somehow menacing arrangement and heartfelt, angry vocals emphasising the less than wholesome nature of the story - and the familiar song suddenly took on a unexpected hue.

Exclellent. They are touring UK and Ireland in next two weeks - go see them.

1 - I reckon they had a row in the traffic, for their music was actually laced with some wry country wit "I was a poor boy this morning / and I'll be one again tonight / there is nothing I call my own / and I will not need my 12 string / when the angels call me home"

10 September 2009

I know what I like...

..and I like what I know.

In 2004 I worked for a week in New York and when I finished up the gruelling, sixteen hour, grinding first Monday that is given to the transatlantic Investment banker, and I settled in to my room-service cheeseburger and New York Times in front of David Letterman, and I discovered that Phil was playing Madison Square Garden that Friday, I was made up

But on the Tuesday my young American co-workers, even the few that like me, looked at me blankly. 'Phil who? you mean the Tarzan guy?  waddyamean this Friday?'

So on the Wednesday I walked down to the ticket booth in Union Square and bought one ticket. 'No, really, one ticket'  That's right: one billy-no-mates ticket to Madison Square Gardens.

It actually would have been OK if they hadn't sat me in a whole row of nohope, singleton losers. On my left a small chinese-american hunched over a laptop, on my right a large Ukranian with a forged ticket waited for the wrestling. He had been done.

I bought a beer and a corn-dog from a roving beer and corn-dog salesman. It was the first corn-dog I had ever had. It was the last corn-dog I have ever had.

Phil played and I enjoyed every moment.

I saw Phil play Earls Court in the 90s, I saw Genesis play Twickenham in 2007; I listened to him sing almost every day from 1978 to 1985 but never went to see him.

On February 14, 1994 Mrs Botogol and I enjoyed a candlelit dinner and a Phil Collins tribute band in the Village Walk hotel, Johannesburg.It was ace.

 I won't hear him drum again.

Take me home.

03 September 2009

An Urban Wind

When I left for vacation the Canary Wharf evenings were still warm and full of promise; the pale, gold, stupidly expensive Chardonnay in First Edition was still sweet and, after work, the dockside tables at All Bar One thronged with strappy-topped women flirting with their close-cropped, jacketless co-workers.

Urban Shred by ecstaticist
 It was summer.

Now I am back from vacation and each lunch time a cold wind, an urban wind that carries rain and also dust, howls through Westferry Circus. Outside Smollensky's chairs lie overturned and the evening crowd huddles indoors.  On the pavements of the Wharf prowl disconsolate security guards, dressed as policemen, with bolt-cutters confiscating the unguarded cycle-locks of the hapless, and I?  I have a chipped tooth that will force me, reluctantly, once more to visit the dentist.

It's the New Year (I cannot be the only person, surely, whose year begins in September?), but it's not yet a Happy one ....  and sometimes all of our thoughts are misgivings.

The old year ended in August with two strange encounters: an old friend and I went on a date, and a cyber-friend became real:

The date was with Frustrated Poet, whom I have known twenty-five years, and our expedition was to admire Gay Icons...  followed by dinner. No, not that sort of date, and the icons weren't all gay, either.

As FP and I ambled slowly around the National Portrait Gallery I amused myself feigning incredulity at the portraits we encountered Elton John? He's never gay!  Will Young? get away! Hang on? Be serious now - Graham Taylor's gay? 1 Until, after a while, we tired of my game, and amused ourselves otherwise: quoting When Harry Met Sally, competitively, over fish and chips and a very fine bottle of Burgundy 2  My, we got some funny looks.

The cyberfriend, just a few days later, was none other than M4GD, regular of this blog, who revealed her true identity - and a surprise - when she met Mrs Botogol and I to listen to Pasadena Roof Orchestra playing a free gig in Canada Square ("Um, Good Evening, Canary Wharf" - well, let's just say: Glastonbury it wasn't)

Meeting an on-line acquaintance in real life is always an ineffably odd experience: I have done it several times and yet still I am unsure whether masks are truly dropped....or raised.  On balance I suspect it's only on-line where you really know someone.

So, now, back from France (moules frite in the square, rose wine on the table, drunk too much, spent too much, penniless again) the rhythms of the New Year (school, rugby, sunday roasts, a new season at Richmond theatre) firmly re-assert themselves and by way of self-improving New Year resolutions I have joined the Royal Institute and booked my 2010 Triathlon.

At work for the next month or two we are mainly budgeting:  for - at the centre of this institution that champions capitalism and thrives on risk, that makes decision on the minutest flicker of a price, in which millions of dollars turn on a basis point - at the centre of this institution there beats a Stalinist heart --  and we are updating our five-year plan.


(1) Not gay. And not totally overwhelmed with enthusiasm for being a Gay Icon either, by some accounts..
(2) Was it even two bottles?